Universal Music Sues Triller For Failing To Pay Music Licensing Fees Amid ‘Lavish’ Spending Elsewhere
The case is the latest legal scuffle for the TikTok-like social media service, which is also embroiled in a similar fight with Sony.
Universal Music Group is suing Triller over allegations that the video-sharing app has failed to make payments for months under its music licensing agreements, echoing accusations made by Sony Music Entertainment in a similar lawsuit last year.
In a complaint filed Thursday (Jan. 5) in Los Angeles court, the music giant’s publishing arm claimed that Triller stopped making payments in April 2022 under two different licensing deals and had missed several required payments since.
Universal says it filed a notice of default in November and terminated the deal earlier this week, but that Triller has still not paid the money it owes — despite allegedly spending plenty of cash elsewhere.
“During the same period that Triller was defaulting on its payment and reporting obligations, it was reported that Triller was spending substantial amounts of money acquiring companies … and throwing lavish events catering to members of the media and entertainment industry,” the company wrote.
Universal says Triller has also breached provisions that require the company to report how the music has been used on the platform. Combined with the lack of payment, Universal cited the breaches as cause to terminate the licensing contract, effective Jan. 3.
In a statement to Billboard, Triller downplayed the seriousness of the case, saying it dealt with only “a very small percentage of the catalogue, and is the ordinary course of business for the music industry and over a small amount of money.”
“This will be decided upon in a proper venue in a few years, and we clearly believe we are in the right and that a court will find in our favor,” Triller wrote in the statement. “It’s a plain vanilla case that virtually every social network has faced in one form or another. It’s not the first and won’t be the last but similar to the past disputes of [this] nature they tend to settle quietly and end up being a lot to do about nothing .”
The lawsuit is the latest recent legal trouble for Triller. Sony filed a similar case in August, saying it had terminated its licensing deal with the company after months of non-payment. That case, filed in federal court, claimed that Triller had continued to use Sony music without a license — meaning it had also infringed Sony’s copyrights. The case remains pending.
Before that, Triller got into a messy fight with Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, who sued in August over allegations that they were still owed $28 million from the sale of their Verzuz livestream series to Triller. The company was sued again later that month by a smartphone app consulting firm, which claimed the company had failed to pay more than $100,000 in fees. Both cases were quickly settled on confidential terms.
It’s also not the first sign of problems between Triller and Universal. In early 2021, the music giant abruptly pulled its catalog from the platform, claiming Triller had “shamefully withheld” artist payments. Three months later, the two companies announced a new worldwide licensing agreement, spanning recorded music and publishing and restoring the UMG catalog to the app. But in December, UMG was one of several major music companies to again be pulled down from the platform.